A Visitor from San Francisco

If you’re new to Mystery Dancer, welcome! The best place to start is at the beginning and go from there.

I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT CREATING AND SHARING “Mystery Dancer,” but one of my favorite aspects is the detective work. My husband is amazed by my research skills, and tells me I should work for the NSA. It’s true, I love watching a picture take shape and sharpen as I discover and connect the “dots,” but I think I’ll focus on Ursula for now.

While researching her time in Hawaii, I came across a curious if confusing news item in the July 15, 1928 Honolulu Advertiser.

Honolulu Advertiser clip

Was this news brief from the July 15, 1928 “Honolulu Advertiser” correct?

Continue Reading →

A Hawaiian Romance

At some point during her Hawaiian adventures, Ursula met a young man named Samuel B. Riddick. I don’t know how they met, but I like to think it was at the Buick car dealership, where he worked as a salesman. It’s possible that Ursula’s friend Elizabeth bought her Buick sedan or had it serviced there, and perhaps Ursula accompanied her, catching Samuel’s eye.

Buick salesmen Honolulu 1928

Samuel B. Riddick worked for a time in his early twenties as a Buick salesman

And why wouldn’t she? She was a beautiful, stylish, vivacious and confident young woman of independent means who was intelligent and well traveled – from Europe to the Grand Canyon. A couple of future news articles (to be revealed in a later post) would mention that they had met and had a romance in Hawaii around this time. Continue Reading →

Ursula’s Hawaiian Adventure Continues

1923 female surfer

Illustration of a female surfer in a 1923 issue of “Judge”—five years before Ursula visited (and possibly surfed in) Hawaii

Beyond enjoying live music and dancing at her luxury hotel and checking out the waterfront activities on Waikiki beach, Ursula would have ventured further afield to experience more of Oahu, her host island.

Sutherland Oriental Shop logoShe might have walked down the street from her hotel to the Sutherland Oriental Shop in the new Waikiki business district to find her mother a special gift, like silk embroidery, handkerchiefs or a kimono. Or perhaps she stopped at the new restaurant nearby—Barbecue Inn—to try their toasted barbecued sandwiches, frogs legs, and Japanese tea. Continue Reading →

Hanging Out in Waikiki

Waikiki Beach in 1928

Waikiki Beach in 1928

Why did Ursula go to Hawaii? Unlike with her travels in Europe, I don’t have her own words to tell us her reasons, what her experiences were like or what she thought of the U.S. territory. There are only a few concrete details of her time in Hawaii; the rest must be left to our imaginations, based on her own life history and the events, music and culture of the day. Continue Reading →

Photo Feature: S.S. “City of Honolulu”

LASSCO brochure

A 1930 LASSCO brochure

Since I was away for Labor Day weekend and have not had time to write a full post, this week’s edition of Mystery Dancer brings you a photographic treat instead. Over the past week, I corresponded with one of the authors of “Hollywood to Honolulu: The Story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company [LASSCO],” the book I mentioned in a previous post (“Ursula’s Hawaiian Adventure”). This fascinating volume chronicles the history of the company that owned and operated several cruise ships — including those that Ursula sailed on – running between California and Hawaii during the “Roaring Twenties.”

Co-author Gordon Ghareeb has generously shared with me the pages of a 1930 LASSCO promotional brochure that features several photographs of the S.S. City of Honolulu, the luxury ocean liner on which Ursula and her friend Elizabeth spent six days at sea steaming toward the Aloha State (well, U.S. “territory” back then). Sailing first-class, Ursula was one of 301 passengers on board. She may have rubbed elbows (or gone swimming!) with ex-Senator James Wadsworth of New York, movie comedy star Chester Conklin, and other prominent fellow travelers. Continue Reading →